By Ben Rosario
The country’s jails are congested by at least 439.48 percent or 111,046 in excess of the ideal capacity of 25,268 inmates based on both local and international standards, the Commission on Audit (COA) said.
COA made this observation in the 2018 annual audit report for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology that was released Monday.
“The jail populations for the year increased in various months attributed to the increase in the number of drug-related cases in the country as well as the court’s slow or no action on the pending cases due to lack of judges, postponement of hearings, and the slow disposition of criminal cases that carry the penalty of reclusion perpetua,” COA said.
In the same audit report, COA asked the BJMP to record and appraise the cost of a total 68,912 square meters of donated land situated in 14 municipalities in Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, and Nueva Ecija.
The state audit body noted that the overcrowding in the country’s jails violates the United National Minimum Standard Rules for the
Treatment of Prisoners.
It also said that the congested state of jailhouses in the country is contrary to the own requirements of the BJMP in its Manual on Habitat, Water, Sanitation and Kitchen in Jails.
According to auditors, this condition has resulted “in unhealthy living conditions of inmates caused by heavy congestion.”
State auditors cited Rule 10 of the UN rules providing that accommodations for the use of prisoners, in particular, all accommodations “shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions, and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating, and ventilation.
Under the MBJMP manual, cell capacity should be 4.7 square meters per inmate, with such space carrying an inmate number capacity of 10.
The cell should also be provided with five two level bunk beds, one wash area, one closet, and a bath area.
“Congestion in jails lead not only to health and sanitation problems but also increased gang affiliation of inmates,” COA warned.
As a result of clogged jails, COA noted that inmates join gangs to find the protection, a network of social support, and access to material benefits.
Among the jails maintain in the country’s 17 regions, the most overcrowded is Region IX which is 645 percent over the limit. It has a jail population of 5,709 but its total carrying capacity is only 766, or a difference of 4,943 inmates.
Region VII is 641 percent over capacity with a jail population of 19,761 cramped into a jail space ideal for 2,665 inmates.
Region IV-A registered a 622-percent congestion rate. Of the jail space that can carry 2,925 inmates, the region’s jails have 21,128 inmates or 18,203 over the limit.
Metro Manila jails have a total population of 36,035 inmates or 30,799 over the ideal capacity of 5,237 inmates. The congestion rate has been recorded at 588 percent.
Region III jails are congested by 548 percent. With only 1,548 ideal loads of inmates, detention cells in the region are teeming with a total, 10,035 inmates or a variance of 8,487.
The lowest congestion rate has been recorded in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at 39 percent. Jails have 143 inmates although its carrying capacity is just 103.
Audit examiners said other reasons for the congestion in jails are the “non-movement or non-release on bail of detainees due to poverty.”
“Some cases were bailable but detainees who were below the poverty line cannot afford to post bail so they were stocked in the jails,” the audit report stated.
To address the situation, auditors called on the BJMP to intensify the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance to encourage inmates to be productive.
Emphasis on the release of detainees on recognition has also been sought by COA.